DAY 773 - DARK DAYS
Day 773 - Puyuhuapi, Carretera Austral, Chile - 18043 km
I was reluctant to get back on the road after a comfortable break in Puerto Varas. Travel-tired you could called it. Ahead of me was the famous Carreterra Austral, the only contineous road through Chile to the far south, winding through dark green forest, flanked by hundreds of streams and waterfalls. Long ago I was looking forward to this part, but now my head was clouded.
The weather forecast predited rain for the coming ten days. No wonder they call this area Patagonia Verde (Green Patagonia), which has by far the most rain fall in the country. I took a ferry to cut off the first bit, which had 3 shorter ferries on route. It sailed during the night and at 8 in the morning I arrived at Chaitén, where I walked off the ship with a flat tire. Ashore I patched the tube under the roof of the waiting area. The small town looked grey and asleep in the early morning. I connected with wifi on the central square, looked for a store to buy some food and got on my way. The Carretera was empty, only once a few minutes a car passed by. It rained, but I was comfortable. In contrary to the rain season in Peru, this time I was better prepared with good rain pants, over shoes to keep my feet dry and the Goretex jacket I had bought in Ecuador still sufficed. During the entire day of rain I stayed dry-ish and warm. I put on my headphones and listened to audio books. After Sapiens, from Yuval Noah Harari, I downloaded 21 lessons for the 21th century. I immersed with the narrator on my headphones and got used to the dark weather.
A few days like this went by. Now and then there’s was a patch of blue skies and I enjoyed the sunlight, but never for too long. I took shelter in the bus stops to eat something. Just for a few minutes, because I would get cold quickly. My gloves were not waterproof and also the jacket lets some rain through. I spend the nights in cabins, which often have a wood burner inside. Because there are so many trees here, it’s the main energy source for heating. Every day I needed to dry all my clothes, my camera bag, saddle bag containing laptop and other electronics. Everything is damp. It’s hard to believe my Macbook is still working. With that much rain no bag is entirely dry, except from the Ortlieb panniers, but also they have holes in it now.
On the worst day of rain I ended up at Ines’ “Refugio for Cyclists”. She lives in basic little house at the edge of a small village, where she has some free space for cyclists to spend the night. It’s a very basic room with a woodburner in the middle. The wall is filled with writings of cyclists, which usually pass by in summer. Two of the windows have no glass and were covered with plastic. I was soaked when I arrived in the dark. The entire day it poured down, my lunch was a wet peanut butter sandwich. The pogies on my bike had absorbed maybe a liter of water and also my tent was entirely wet, while it had never been out of its bag. Ines chopped wood for me to light the stove. It burned the whole evening and warmed the little cabin. While there was nothing else inside than a mattress on the floor and the wood burner it felt like a 5-star hotel. Warmth and shelter can become so valuable.
Many hotels and campsites are closed for winter in Patagonia. Some owners migrate to warmer places (I don't blame them). So I ended up on this abandoned campsite along a lake where I spend the night in a scruffy cabaña. The wind literally blew through the gaps in the wall. The whole place was pretty run down, but it suited to dry clothes. It took quite a lot of work to get a fire going from soaking wet wood, but in the end I had a pretty enjoyable evening scavenging wood and staying warm by the fire. It's a powerful feeling when nature is about to consume you with its dark forces and you succeed in fighting back.